Polymer Clay, Ideas and a Tutorial!

Hello everyone! I’m back this week to offer up some fun ideas and a tutorial. It’s summer now and for many people, that means kids are home (and in your hair, lol). This is going to be something fun you can do with a slightly older child, it’s not really toddler friendly simply because you can’t risk them eating the clay. The website says it’s non-toxic but honestly, it’s flexible plastic so it’s really only suitable for older kids. I like Sculpey clay, I’ve used it ever since I was little and I find it to be a really great product. There are other brands of polymer clay out there that others swear by, use what you like (or can find). I bought mine during a half on sale Joann’s was having so each 2oz bar was around $1.50. Even at full price it’s not that expensive and a little goes a long way. Today we’re going to make a small marbled bowl, all told it’ll take a quarter of a block so you’ll have plenty left over for other creations! Now, lets get started!

First thing you’re going to do is pick your colors. For this I picked blue, two different greens, and white. I find that picking colors that’ll mix nicely together is key. So either pick similar colors, like my greens and blues, or pick colors that will mix to create a new color like red and blue so you’ll get purple. I’ve tried a lot of different combos but find that the colors mix so easily that while pink and green might look great together, mixed they create a really ugly shade. So think your color combos through first!

Now that you’ve picked your colors it’s time to start mixing them. I like to roll mine out into logs, then I twist them together and roll them out again.

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After I’ve rolled out my giant log, I fold it back on itself and twist and roll again.

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Then I start to smush it up a bit. Have fun with it but remember not to do it too much! You want the colors to swirl and blend. But if you play with it too much you’ll lose the swirl effect we’re going for. Once you’ve got it to the point you want it roll it into a ball in your palms.

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Then grab your rolling pin and start rolling it out. As you’re rolling things out try to ensure you’re rolling it out evenly, and pay attention to the swirl pattern you’re creating. Halfway through I recommend flipping it over to see what the other side looks like. If you prefer one over the other then focus on that side. In this case I ended up liking the bottom side better, so I flipped it.

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Now it’s important to keep an eye out for air bubbles. They can expand in the oven and totally ruin your piece. So if you see one, just pop it with one of your tools then smooth it out with your finger. Due to the swirled nature of the pattern you’ll never see it later.

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After you’ve got your clay to your desired thickness grab something to trace a circle. I found a large plastic cup to work perfectly for this. Cut around the perimeter and get ready to lay it into your bowl.

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Find an oven safe bowl you don’t mind donating to the cause. Once you use something for polymer clay you really shouldn’t eat off of it again. So far as I know no brand has tested whether it’s safe to use these items again, but it’s recommended against. You can easily pick a glass bowl up from the dollar store, or just use one you don’t like. I have several of this same red cafe au lait bowl so I used that. I plan to use it in my craft room so I didn’t mind using it for this.

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Lay your clay circle in the bowl then bake according to the clay’s instructions being careful to watch the clock so it doesn’t burn!

Now, if you’re like me you’l get this far and do something stupid. For me, I was in my dimly lit kitchen and wearing an oven mitt when I decided it would be a good idea to poke at what I thought was a bubble (there was no bubble). Since I had my circle just laying in the bowl and not pressed into the center there was space. A smart thing to do would have been to tip the bowl upside down and tap so my clay bowl would fall out. Instead I put my finger through it. Grrrr.

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You’re clay will still be somewhat pliable and slightly brittle when it’s still piping hot from the oven. Hence the weird cracking it did when I trashed the bowl. But I was able to press it back together and it’s fine and not especially noticeable now. I know some of you are thinking “why didn’t you just start over and never mention you screwed up”. Well, I think it’s fair to show your failings. And if I can help someone else learn from my mistakes, that’s great. I’ve made a number of these with no issues, but the time I set out to photograph it for the blog this happens. And hey, maybe it happened so I could share my experience, who knows? So I’m leaving it in.

When it’s cool you can leave it as is, or you can glaze it. I decided to gold leaf the edge and glaze it. This is the gold leaf paint I used. It’s seriously the coolest stuff in the jar, liquid metal. I glazed my bowl using Sculpey glaze. When using polymer clay you can’t use just anything on it. No acrylic paints or nail polish or what have you. Over time it’ll degrade the cay and cause a gooey mess, not good. So be sure you’re using clay safe glaze.

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I did make a tiny little bowl from my scraps. I thought about just mixing them together and making a kawaii creature (another plus of using coordinating colors). But just decided to roll them out into an irregular shape and make a very tiny bowl. There were some air bubbles in this one and I’m glad for it, it gives you all a chance to see what they can look like. They aren’t that bad in this piece, but you can see how this might ruin a sculpture.

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Another fun thing you can make using very little clay and a lot of imagination is fun charms or pocket pals. I’m seriously addicted to making these. I actually still have a ladybug I made more than fifteen years ago. He’s back in the Hawaii house somewhere, I’ll need to find him and bring him back. I haven’t played with this stuff in ages though. But I’m glad I took the craft back up, it’s very relaxing. And it’s a great thing to do on days you’d rather just sit inside in the AC because it’s too hot for the kids to play outside.

Here are some of the cute little things I’ve made over the past several days.

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I really like this particular YouTube channel, she has a lot of cute little tutorials that show how to create these.

There are also a lot of cute inspirational pictures on Pintrest. I’ve created a special board devoted to these cute little guys, you can see it here. I’ve also started to use Instagram. There is someone on there with my name (I do not find it funny) but you can find the real koolchicken here.

I do want to be completely honest. I try to post tutorials I think anyone could do, so you can follow along and come away with something cute and feel good about yourself. I really feel like a lot of the Pintrest hate out there is because the site sets people up for unrealistic expectations. Yes, there’s something for everyone out there, but a lot of this stuff is hard and you have to know how to pick your projects. This bowl really is super easy and any four year old could manage this (with a little adult help for the cutting and baking). But where the little clay animals are concerned, you may struggle. I actually started a new medicine for nerve pain and was pretty drugged when I made the strawberry, mushroom, watermelon. This is one of my talents, I can and have made these while struggling to speak properly. I come from a long line of artists and though no one else has sculpted (to my knowledge) I’ve been doing it for years. I once managed a complicated vase on a pottery wheel on my first try, I wasn’t even ten. When we played with clay in school I was always the weird kid who managed some elaborate figurine when everyone else made ashtrays and snakes. I was making canes at 12. I’m not saying this to brag, I’m just trying to be honest and say that the little figurines are tricky if you’ve never done it before and they may take real practice. So you may not be able to just watch a two minute video and recreate this perfectly on your first try, even if you’re sober. I’m sorry. But, I truly believe that if you look over my Pintrest board anyone could find something they could make with a bit of practice. I’ve got a good mix on there. Regardless of whether you’ll be able to make something exactly the same as someone who’s been doing this for years, this stuff is still really fun to play around with. If what you’re making isn’t coming out the way you like, smush it up and start over. No big deal. The main purpose of this all is to have fun. Stressing about making something perfect isn’t fun. If you make a mistake, just go with it. It’s okay.

Now, some tips to make playing with this stuff a bit more fun and successful.

*First up, protect your work surface! I like to lay down some wax paper. I tape it down so it doesn’t bunch or shift. You can also lay it out on top of your clay to make rolling it out easier. I’ve been wanting a piece of marble tile for a while now, just to use with some of my other craft projects. I think it’ll work especially well with my clay, and I’ve seen others using them as well. They can be bought individually at the hardware store for very little.

*When it comes to rolling out your clay you can either use a bit of waxed paper to protect your rolling pin, or you can use a dedicated rolling pin. The one I used in the tutorial can be bought here. It was inexpensive and comes with removable guide rings that make rolling out your surface evenly easy.

*If you’re looking for tools to use with your clay, nail art tools can be very handy. I recently bought some from eBay, you can buy the same ones here. You can use them to glue pieced of baked clay together, for painting, and for picking up small pieces. It can also be helpful for smoothing out the clay and attaching pieces.

*If you want to glue your clay, E6000 is the only glue that seems to work on polymer clay. This is a restricted item many places. In New York I used to have to show ID to buy it. But it’s very strong and I love it. It actually works better than super glue and is more effective on many surfaces. So I tend to use it for more than just clay. You can buy it in many supermarkets, Target, Walmart, etc.

*Clean up can be a little tricky. After you wash your hands they’ll often still feel as though they have a film on them. Just using a bit of rubbing alcohol or some hand sanitizer will remove that residue instantly. It can also be great to have it with you when you’re working with the clay so when you swap colors, the red that’s on your fingers doesn’t transfer to your white and turn it pink! Baby wipes also seem to work well.

So there you have it. I hope you all feel inspired to get out there and start crafting. Polymer clay is a lot of fun and a great boredom buster. This stuff can totally keep most kids occupied for hours, and you’ll probably feel compelled to join in on the fun too. It’s hard to resist this stuff. 🙂

See you next week!

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